University Publishing, quarterly review of books, culture

UNIVERSITY Publishing, a quarterly review sponsored by the University of California Press, features book reviews, essays, and articles of topical interest. Beginning with the Spring 1984 issue, it plans to increase its coverage to include all books published by university presses in a special supplement to be edited by John McGowan.

Issues of University Publishing (UP) are often organized around a theme. For Winter 1984 it was California - home turf. And, to judge by the contents, Californians are obsessed by photography. At least four articles are either reviews of books on photography or just plain essays about photography. The front-page feature, in fact, is an article about Max Yavno's photograph ''Muscle Beach,'' in which Leonard Michaels contends - amid many more intriguing and thoughtful speculations - that photographs, unlike ''novels, plays, poems, and paintings . . . simply aren't pictures.'' Whatever they are, UP certainly thinks highly of them and includes some rather striking ones in its pages.

Trees, freeways, Howard Jarvis, an interview with food writer M.F.K. Fisher, a talk with California artists about the qualities of light, and some Californian views of medicine, law, and education round out the issue.

Most of the space is devoted to a very long, informative, and entertaining article by David Reid, quarried chiefly from two books which are mentioned rather than reviewed: Kevin Starr's ''Americans and the California Dream, 1850- 1915'' and Peter Conrad's ''Imagining America.'' Reid chronicles the reactions of Richard Henry Dana, Clarence King, Henry James, Edmund Wilson, Aldous Huxley, W. H. Auden, and Christopher Isherwood to - what else? - California, that land of emptiness, beauty, no history, no seasons, greed, complacency, optimism, pessimism, self-improvement, suicide, transcience, sunshine, mountains, and ocean.

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